Why is an echo weaker than the original sound?
Credit: Britt Reints CC-BY-2.0
Q:

Why is an echo weaker than the original sound?

A:

Quick Answer

An echo is weaker than the original sound because the sound wave imparts energy to the surface from which it bounces. When a sound wave is directed at a distant surface, particles of air in the path transmit the energy to the next particle, until it reaches the surface. When the sound wave hits the surface, it transmits energy to it. This loss manifests itself as a weaker return signal.

  Know More

Full Answer

An echo is strongest when the original sound wave strikes a hard, even surface. Soft surfaces and uneven surfaces absorb more energy, so there isn't much left in the return signal and the echo is weaker.

Additionally, the farther away the surface is, the weaker the echo. The intervening particles of air lose a little energy each time they transmit the sound wave to the next particle, so for great distances, the echo is weaker even when returning from a very hard, even surface.

If a surface is very close to the original sound wave, then there isn't an echo at all - but a reverberation. The leading end of the sound wave returns to the origin even before the trailing end has hit the surface, so a continuous sound is heard.

Learn more about Optics & Waves

Related Questions

  • Q:

    How fast is sound?

    A:

    The speed of sound is dependent on the medium through which it is traveling. Under typical conditions, at sea level, sound travels 1,225 kilometers per hour, or 340.29 meters per second.

    Full Answer >
    Filed Under:
  • Q:

    Why is sound important?

    A:

    Although there are many reasons sound is important; a couple reasons are that it allows humans and animals to hear and communicate, and it is a primary component in the functioning of sonar equipment. Sound occurs in a variety of waves, which have different characteristics and produce different types of noises.

    Full Answer >
    Filed Under:
  • Q:

    How do you get rid of an echo in a room?

    A:

    Getting rid of or reducing an echo in a room involves limiting the number of solid surfaces off of which sound waves are able to bounce. This includes installing carpet to rid a room of hard floors or hanging up curtains to prevent as much sound as possible from bouncing off walls.

    Full Answer >
    Filed Under:
  • Q:

    Does sound travel faster than light?

    A:

    Sound travels much more slowly than light. The speed of light is colloquially known as the cosmic speed limit as physical constraints prevent objects of macroscopic scale from traveling faster than light.

    Full Answer >
    Filed Under:

Explore